Afraid of Our Own Shadow

Early visit is cancelled and I’m psyched for work but stalled for a half hour. The TV is on, Anthony Hopkins is starring in a re-make of ‘The Exorcist’. I’m still just Catholic enough that this stuff creeps me out, and Pagan/Earth Religion enough that I have several effective recipes for pest removal, even non-corporeal pests. Really.

So what’s with the new interest in exorcism? There’s a reality show planned, the Pope is seriously promoting it, evangelists consider it a part of their usual ministry– some are casting out gay demons in people who are just too fabulous.

Having firsthand experience in exorcism (more common than you might think) I take a materialistic view. People are in pain, they are frightened. Our own unacceptable shadow side can scare and torment us. Sometimes it is actually therapeutic to externalize what we can’t manage and ritually cast it out. Hey, my nursing philosophy is ‘whatever works’.

But since everything is political, I have to wonder. Is this the literal-minded demonization of the other? Fear of some kind of miscegenation of the spirit? A need for a purge of internal enemies? Desire for a dramatic showdown and victory, after which everything will be pure?

My experience of exorcism is that it scares the heck out of people but has little lasting effect. You can’t cut off parts of your self and throw them away– you are you. You can’t escape your own shadow, you just have to accept that there’s no vision without the dark and the light. The more you understand yourself, the less you are at risk of saying or doing something you will instantly regret, or causing such offense that others will have to sit on you.

I don’t know if the latest ‘Exorcist’ will drive some troubled people into treatment, and scare more into denying their own full self. It will probably rake in the bucks, though. We live in anxious times.

The Wild Hunt is a thoughtful Pagan blog, and they have great coverage including a witch’s interview with the priest featured in ‘The Rite’. Check it out here.

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One thought on “Afraid of Our Own Shadow

  1. I think psychiatry is a lot like exorcism-it can’t really change who a person is.
    We tend to use “possession” to explain essential evil.
    People we call sociopaths are evil at their core,but I don’t believe in a religious explanation for it.
    Sociopaths are cured when they roll a seven.

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